Monday, September 29, 2008

A Stone's Throw

We all have characteristic ways of speaking. Think about the closest members of your family and some of their distinctive ways of communication. My Dad ran a small town garage and gas station. If a tourist stopped to ask directions, they most often heard: "Well, you go down east about a 'stone's throw' and then turn . . ." In most cases, a stone's throw distance was hard to discern for most tourists. And rightfully so because it appeared to have a range for Dad of about 25 yards to 5 miles!

With this said, did Jesus have characteristic ways of speaking. Scholars tell us "yes." One of the distinctive marks of Jesus' speech is the use of the Hebrew "Amen." Now while the common usage of "amen" was to affirm the words of another, Jesus used it to introduce or strengthen his own words. Our translation often disguise this by translating the word as "truly". Joachim Jeremias in his New Testament Theology lists 59 occasions in the gospels where this word is on the lips of Jesus. In the Gospel of John, it appears in double form: "Amen, Amen, I say to you . . ." Which leads to another characteristic, when "Amen" is used by Jesus in the Gospels, it is followed by the phrase "I say to you." And this way of speaking is only associated with Jesus in the gospels.

Here are a five examples in Mark and John to look at: Mark 3:28; 8:12; 9:1 and John 1:51; 3:3.

We'll look at a couple of other characteristic ways Jesus spoke in some upcoming posts.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Marginal Jew

In 1991, John P. Meier, Catholic priest and New Testament scholar, published A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Volume 1. Next spring, Volume 4 is to be published. And a Volume 5 is anticipated. Meier has spent almost two decades researching and writing about the historical Jesus, which raises the question for me: What do I know for sure about the Jesus of history?

In his initial volume, Meir imagines the following scenario: "Suppose that a Catholic, a Protestant, a Jew, and an agnostic - all honest historians cognizant of first century religious movements - were locked up in the bowels of the Harvard Divinity School library . . . and not allowed to emerge until they had hammered out a consensus document on who Jesus of Nazareth was and what he intended . . ."

If all were honest and maintained their academic integrity, what consensus would emerge from such a gathering. And, more importantly, what might emerge from our own historical study of Jesus?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

And the answers are . . .

Spoiler Alert: the answers to the previous post are shown below. If you want to experience the joy of researching and learning on your own, please avert your eyes NOW. Review the questions on the post and go to BibleGateway. If you have your answers, read on.

By my count, there were 24 occasions where Adam is mentioned based on the New International Version. And 8 of those occasions are found in the New Testament. Did you think there would be more entries listed; I did.

Bible Gateway

If you have not been to BibleGateway, take a quick visit. It is a terrific tool for reading and researching scripture online. For example, suppose you want to know each mention of "Adam" in the Bible and especially the places where that name is mentioned in the New Testament. By selecting Keyword Search, you can find your answers almost instantly.

Or suppose you want to read Mark 10:46-52. By choosing Passage Look-up, you can immediately have access to your scripture selection. You can also see how the passage is translated in other English versions by selecting 1 of 20 (or more) different versions.

Try it out and compare your answer with mine in the next post.